In 2018 I will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada. I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.
Possum Trot Supper Club – Oakwood, Illinois
Pierre Part, Louisiana
Pound Gap, Virginia
Prairie Dogs – Browning, Montana; Cactus Flat, South Dakota
And then there is the Pink Elephant Car Wash – Seattle, Washington
Poutine – A Canadian Favorite – Paris, Ontario
Portsmouth Murals – Portsmouth, Ohio
Portland Head Light – Portland, Maine
Just down the road from Hell – Pinckney, Michigan
Planet Damon Water Tower – Damon, Texas
Presti’s Bakery – Little Italy – Cleveland, Ohio
Pain Reliever Bar – Nekoma, North Dakota
PRHBTN Murals (there are more than 20 – here are a couple) – Lexington, Kentucky
Papa Joe’s – Crescent Junction, Utah
P’Maws Bait Shack – Pierre Part, Louisiana
Pat’s King of Steaks – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Puget Sound – Seattle, Washington
Perry Como Statues – Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Fun Stuff in Portland, Oregon
Pheasant Bar – Winner, South Dakota
Petrified Forest National Park – Holbrook, Arizona
Pinto McBean – Bow Island, Alberta, Canada
A few Paul Bunyan guys here and there – Bemidji, Minnesota; Nitro, West Virginia; Minocqua, Wisconsin; Wentzville, Missouri
Price Less Foods – Irvine, Kentucky
Popeye Statue – Alma, Arkansas
Port Gibson First Presbyterian Church – Port Gibson, Mississippi
Powder River, Wyoming
Paradise Point – Scottsville, Kentucky
Scenes from Paris – or four or five of them – Paris, Ontario; Paris, Kentucky; Paris, Texas; Paris, Tennessee
Point Defiance Zoo – Tacoma, Washington
Paul’s Hamburgers – Kansas City, Kansas
Peaks to Craters Scenic Highway – Idaho
Pelicans – Lake Andes, South Dakota; Galveston, Texas; Lexington, Kentucky
Plaza Theatres – Glasgow, Kentucky & Wharton, Texas
Playhouse Square – Cleveland, Ohio
Pea Meal Breakfast Anyone? – Woodstock, Ontario
PPG Glass Castle – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Professor Market – Tremont District – Cleveland, Ohio
Pike Place Market – Seattle, Washington
Penn’s Store – Gravel Switch, Kentucky
Penguins – Omaha, Nebraska; Tacoma, Washington
Pheasants on the Prairie – Enchanted Highway – Regent, North Dakota
Pickle’s Place – Arco, Idaho
Pete the Curler – Bemidji, Minnesota
Pork Chop Sandwiches (as seen on Andy Griffith) – Mt. Airy, North Carolina
Old Prairie School House – Frisno, Montana
Giant Prairie Dog Statue – Cactus Flat, South Dakota
Pelo’s Sundries – LeClaire, Iowa
If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon. My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.
Everywhere I go I see old neon. These signs remind me of the my youthful days in the 1960s and 70s when we traveled. Alas, for many, the only signs they see are the same unoriginal fast food, gas station and motel chain signs all over the place. But, in the by gone days there were few McDonald’s and Motel 6 spots. Instead, there were the little cozy motels with the old metal chairs in the front and the unique neon signs. There were the local burger joints with their big shiny signs. And there were the drive in movie theaters and the downtown theatres with their unique names. Here is a trip down memory lane with neon I have captured along the less beaten paths and just a few comments, when appropriate.
Of all of the unique neon signs, perhaps the hotel and motel signs are the most fun and bring back the fondest memories. My first ever motel stay was in some non-descript motel in Amarillo, Texas in 1968. At the time I was only 12. It was exciting to sleep in a motel bed, see the paper covered drinking glasses, taste the strange tasting water, sit on the metal rockers on the front porch. We watched the news and stock reports on the local television and ate pancakes at a local cafe before heading to our new home in Richardson, Texas (we were moving from Albuquerque, so yes, we were on Route 66 back then).
And to round off the trip, how about one of the more famed ones….
CAFES AND RESTAURANTS
After a nice evening a a comfy motel, what is better than starting the day off with a great breakfast at a diner, a pancake house or a local cafe. The servings are always big, the mom and pop service is better than any fast food joint. Of course, while on the road you can also stop for lunch and even a big dinner, in some cases even more than you can manage if you are willing to take the chance (think Amarillo, Texas!!)
How about some burgers for lunch?
Perhaps you want to try an ORIGINAL Cozy Dog….a Route 66 Classic indeed. This one deserves two photos
Don’t want a burger or a corn dog? How about a Maid-Rite Sandwich?
Or perhaps some great authentic Bar-B-Q?
And a little Ice Cream for an afternoon treat….
Okay. So this next one is not neon. But it is certainly Vintage. And who can resist stopping for an ice cream at a place that LOOKS like an Ice Cream?
There are lots of places that you can get dinner…many of the old neon places are a combo bar/grill or bar/restaurant. And many have unique signs. Personally, I don’t drink alcohol, but I have certainly enjoyed a few good meals at some of these kinds of places.
And let’s not forget two of the most iconic vintage neon places for travelers….
Maybe you prefer something a bit more ethnic in the evening….
Or perhaps just a late night Philly Cheese Steak? How about two choices and they are just across the street from each other in the triangle….(I actually tried one at each place on the same evening – add the whiz!)
Movie Theaters, Drive-In Theaters and Music Halls
Perhaps you have had a long day on the road and need a break from motel room TV. A visit to an old drive in theater with some popcorn and thus fuzzy little speakers hanging in your window will do ya.
Too cold outside? Then there are some classic old movie theaters around that show some cool movies or maybe even will have a live band playing in them. Many of the old theaters are multi-purpose nowadays, but their old neon signs still draw you in and bring back the memories of 1960s childhood.
Following are a few classic looks with neon I have seen over the years as I travel the back roads of America.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY OTHER PLACES
Sure, I meant it when I included “Sundry” in this section. That term seems old fashioned now, but the old five-and-dime shops had “sundry” items. There were also the old drug stores that sold magazines, had fountains in the shop and they sold “sundries.”
I also include the “various” in here since there are a few odds and ends neon signs that I want to include in this section.
Now, wasn’t that just a yummy adventure through the past?
April 3, 2013: Yet another day on the road home as Julianne and I take our time to see a few of the sites on the way. This day we drove from Des Moines to a couple places in Iowa and eventually into Illinois. Here is our route:
First thing we did was head to Pella, Iowa, which is not too far from Des Moines. Pella prides itself as being a “Touch of Holland” and indeed is very Dutch. Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States. Pella was originally settled in 1847 by about 800 Dutch immigrants. They named the town Pella, which in Dutch means City of Refuge, due to the fact that these immigrants were fleeing religious persecution in their home country of the Netherlands. Pella is also the birthplace of Wyatt Earp, the famed sheriff of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
We had been advised by friends to definitely try the “Dutch Letters” while here. Dutch Letters are a flaky almond paste filled pastry. Shaped like an S, they were apparently a traditional Christmas pastry in Holland. We stopped at the Jaarsma Bakery on Franklin Street in Pella to have some of these. They would be our breakfast. Turns out they have a lot of other goodies!!
Another treat we were advised to try was Pella Ring Bologna. There are two well known places to get this ring bologna in Pella and we stopped at Ulrich’s Meat Market which is a couple doors down from the Jaarsma Bakery. Not onl is the ring bologna good — the meat sticks were fabulous!!
The town of Pella is quaint and picturesque. It was a pleasure to walk around and see some of the scenery, including a few smaller windmills and the larger one. Here are a few scenes from Pella.
Pella is famed for its tulips, but we were too early for them. But, daffodils are another Dutch bulb plant. And they were in full bloom.
Of course, perhaps the most famous thing in Pella (besides the famed Pella window factory) is the huge authentic working Dutch Windmill. The Vermeer Mill, as it is called, is an 1850s style working windmill. It is 124 feet tall and is the largest working windmill of its kind in the United States. The mill is totally wind powered and is actually used like the windmills of old to grind wheat into flour. It was built in Holland and assembled in Pella in 2002.
There is a Dutch Interpretive Center and small Dutch Village attached to the Windmill. Within its confines are a number of Dutch style buildings , including Wyatt Earp’s birthplace. We didn’t go into the village since admission was $10 per person, which we though was rather pricy.
After a pleasant time in Pella, we were back on the road. With my penchant for going to strange named towns, I wanted to make our way down some back roads to What Cheer, Iowa. Originally named Petersburg in 1865 but was renamed What Cheer in 1879 after the Postal Service declined the name of Petersburg. The Wikipedia article linked here has some details as to the origin of the name What Cheer.
Ironically, as we drive through town, I exclaimed to my wife that the town name should be “What Cheer?” as the small town looks like it is falling apart and many of the businesses have been abandoned. There were a little over 600 people in this small town according to the 2010 census.
Reminiscent of downtown Pella, there is one nicely kept building in What Cheer, with the nice corner turret. It used to be a bank, but is apparently now a residence.
There was one other refreshing site in town. One home had some unique artwork surrounding the yard.
From What Cheer we made our way northeast to I-80 and then into Le Clair, Iowa, a small touristy town along the Mississippi River. This was my second visit to Le Claire as I had been here before to visit Antique Archaeology, home of the “American Pickers” TV show on History Channel. On my previous visit back in June 2012 I even got to meet Danielle and get a shot with her.
When I visited in June last year Danielle had a shop in Le Claire across the street from Antique Archaeology called 4 Miles 2 Memphis. She is actually well known for “up-cycling” things and making them into clothing, jewelry, etc. The shop has since moved to Chicago.
There are lots of unique things for sale at the shop, many which had been picked from shows past. Here is a small sample of some of the things in the shop. Recognize anything?
A video clip of the American Pickers episode with the Laurel and Hardy masks.
You would be mistaken if you think that Antique Archaeology is the center piece of Le Claire. This unique little town is chock full of personality, antique shops and more.
Pelo’s is your typical old sundry and fountain type shop, except that it now has a coffee shop, open mike nites and more.
Julianne was thrilled to visit some of the shops, but her biggest thrill was being able to “pick” a 1930s quilt from a shop in Le Claire. This hand pieced and hand sewn quilt was in a small shop along the river. The gal in the shop obviously didn’t know quilts like Julianne does as she had this quilt for sale for $150!! It was a splurge purchase for us, but, we believe that the value of this quilt is really closer to $800 or $1000 due to its age and almost pristine quality, along with all of the 1930s fabric.
We could have spent more time in Le Claire, but had to move on. My ultimate goal stop for the day was to get to Cozy Dog in Springfield, Illinois.
Springfield is one of those iconic Route 66 towns and along this road is the Cozy Dog Drive In, which claims to be the home of the all-American famed Corn Dog! Though there is some dispute as to the true origin of the corn dog, the Cozy Dog story is that Ed Walmire and his friend Don Strand invented the deep fried battered hot dog on a stick while stationed in Amarillo, Texas during World War II. They called them crusty curs, but, upon Ed’s return to Springfield, Ed and his wife decided on the name “Cozy Dog” and began selling them from their house and at the Illinois State Fair in 1946. Ed’s wife designed the “hot dogs in a loving embrace logo” for the drive in. In 1996 they moved their Drive In a bit up the road to its current location and gave it a decidedly Route 66 theme.
And of course, this is why we come to Cozy Dog – not healthy at all, but sure Yummiferous!!
This was officially our final stop on the way home so it was a perfect place to “cozy up” with my sweetheart….
After spending the night in Springfield, Julianne and I booked it back to our old Kentucky Home in Lexington. It was a long trip, almost 2,800 miles (including side trips into towns, etc.) and over 55 hours of driving time. We traveled from Rexburg, ID to Shelby, MT (to see the grandkids) and then across northern Montana, south into North and South Dakota, east thru Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and finally home. This was Julianne’s longest road trip ever (her previous one was when we moved from Mesa, AZ to Frankfort, KY in 1991 — that was about 2100 miles).